Operation Hastings/ Deckhouse II

 

Hastings Comes to an End, 261u1y-3 August 1966

On 26 July, General English implemented his new orders. Lieutenant Colonel Bell's 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, operating in the eastern sector of the same valley as the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, was ordered to move south toward Cam Lo. The SLF battalion, on the other hand, was to continue its advance to the southwest of the valley and operate just north of the Rockpile. Lieutenant Colonel Spaulding then moved his 2d Battalion, 1st Marines 3,000 meters east of the Rockpile into the Cam Lo River on 27 July.

The Marines also began withdrawing from the Helicopter Valley region. As early as 21 July, General English had replaced Lieutenant Colonel Vale's 3d Battalion, which had been bled in the early fighting, with Lieutenant Colonel Dickey's relatively fresh 1st Battalion, 3d Marines in the blocking positions in the northern sector of the valley. Lieutenant Colonel Bench's 2d Battalion, 4th Marines had continued with its search mission in the southern portion of the valley against small but persistent enemy forces until 25 July. 

 Hastings officially ended on 3 August. 

During Hastings, Marine supporting arms played a decisive role. Marine F-4B Phantoms, A-4 Skyhawks, and F-8 Crusaders maintained a sortie rate of 100 a day, averaging 32 close air support missions, 40 interdiction missions, and 28 radar controlled missions. During the entire operation, attack aircraft completed 1,677 tactical sorties against the enemy. At the same time, MAG-16 helicopters flew nearly 10,000 sorties and lifted a daily average of 620 troops. On the ground, Major Morrow's artillery fired nearly 34,500 rounds in support of the Marine and South Vietnamese infantrymen.

Logistic support during the operation had also been massive. By 18 July, the KC-130 transport planes from VMGR-152 and -352 had hauled 1.3 million pounds of supplies from Da Nang to Dong Ha. From that date to the end of the operation, the transport pilots brought in 115 tons per day to sustain the Marine task force. In addition, "Rough Rider" truck convoys, using Route 1, brought 120 tons of ammunition from Phu Bai to the task force logistic support area at Dong Ha. MAG- 16 and -36 helicopters were used exclusively to move the supplies from the LSA to the battalions in the field. Despite the fact that after 21 July all CH-46A helicopters were grounded for mechanical reasons, the 42 UH-34s and four CH-37s at Dong Ha lifted an average of 75 tons per day, with a peak of 110 tons, to supply the infantry.   General English later reminisced: "I was a battalion commander at Iwo Jima and I didn't get anywhere near the support I was able to give these Marines here. 

Operation Hastings/Lam Son-289, the largest and most violent operation of the war up to that point, involved 8,000 Marines and 3,000 South Vietnamese. The number of North Vietnamese regulars engaged probably equaled the total American and South Vietnamese strength. During the battle, the Marines fought elements from all three regiments of the 324B Division: the 99th ,the 803d, and the 812th. 

Both sides suffered heavy casualties. The Marines had lost 126 killed and 448 wounded while the ARVN had 21 killed and 40 wounded. The allies inflicted a still higher toll on the enemy; reported enemy casualties numbered over 700 killed and 17 captured. Enemy equipment losses were significant, included were over 200 weapons, 300 pounds of documents, and over 300,000 rounds of ammunition. 

Summing up this major engagement along the DMZ, General Walt described the enemy in the following terms:

We found them well equipped, well trained, and aggressive to the point of fanaticism. They attacked in mass formations and died by the hundreds. Their leaders had misjudged the fighting ability of U.S. Marines and ARVN soldiers together; our superiority in artillery and total command of the air. They had vastly underestimated . . . our mobility.

Although 1/1's losses in Hastings were not as significant as other battalions, the companies were in support of those other units, and suffered casualties. Delta Company lost two members: PFC Ronald Filkins, who was drafted into the Marine Corps, was killed by shell fragments while assaulting NVA bunkers 8 Km WNW of Cam Lo on 7/20 1966. Cpl Robert Wenger was killed by small arms fire in a similar assault on NVA positions 2 Km further NW on 7/23/1966. Four others were lost in this assault, two each from Charlie Company and Navy Corpsmen from H&S.

Delta Company then returned to Quang Nam province some time in late August or early Sept. Cpl Ernest Orendorff Jr. was killed by a mine placed in a pagoda 6 Km north of Dien Ban on 8/3/1966. Two members of the 1st Scout Dog Platoon were also killed in the blast.